(Intro to today’s Christmas Music program at church.)
An organization called Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence (http://marchsabbath.org/) has declared this weekend Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath Weekend. The dates they suggest—Dec. 10 – 14—are significant. December 10, 1948 is the date the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights was finalized. December 14, 2012 is the date of the horrific events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
The hope for this Sabbath is that people of all faiths will come together to remember those who have lost their lives to gunfire, pray for those whose lives have been forever changed because of the loss of a loved one, and to educate one another on proven strategies to reduce gun violence.
When I talked with Missions Co-chairs Janet Alspach and Julie Binney, we all agreed that we’d like to do something, but we didn’t feel like we had time to pull together a whole service for today. And besides, the choir already was scheduled to present their Christmas program. We didn’t want to detract from that. While we do want to begin exploring ways in which we might add our voices to the important work of ending gun violence, for today, we decided to focus on the Advent theme of Joy.
When the world gets crazy like it has been lately—with terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, with college presidents and presidential candidates inciting hatred toward Muslims—sometimes we feel guilty for feeling happy. When so many people are grieving tragic, evil events, or are terrified because their religion is being targeted by hate-mongers, it seems rude or, at the least, unkind to laugh or feel joy.
But sometimes, that’s exactly what we need to do. We need to remind ourselves that joy, happiness, wholeness for all people is the goal of this life. What better way to remind ourselves of that fact than to celebrate a little?
So today, we’re going to remind ourselves again of the hope our faith brings, the peace we are called to create, and the joy that it is all around us, even when things look grim. We’re following Leonard Bernstein’s advice: “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”